Glaucoma: A Common Disease That Can Cause Blindness

From Claude Monet to Whoopi Goldberg, eye problems happen in people of all social statuses, backgrounds, and professions. It doesn’t help that the older you get, the higher your chances of getting an eye disease. That fact is why everyone should take care of their eyes and respond to eye issues immediately.

Glaucoma, a group of eye conditions that damage vision, is one of the most common illnesses in older adults and one of the leading causes of blindness. Despite its prevalence, many people don’t understand what it is or how it can be treated. Here’s what you need to know:

What Is Glaucoma?

Impairment of the optic nerve results in glaucoma. The optic nerve makes it possible for the brain and the eye to communicate. Such damage could cause progressive loss of eyesight and can render the person irreversibly blind if not given medical attention. The two most common forms of the disease are:

Narrow-Angle Glaucoma – Also called closed-angle or acute angle-closure glaucoma, this type occurs suddenly when fluid builds up behind the iris. The rapid buildup causes a sudden, dangerous increase in intraocular pressure, resulting in vision loss. Narrow-angle glaucoma shouldn’t be taken lightly. It requires immediate medical treatment to prevent any permanent damage to the eye.

Open-Angle Glaucoma – This starts when the eye is cannot drain fluid through its trabecular meshwork, creating more pressure. Even though the eye appears normal, its connection with the brain slowly weakens. Patients often do not notice that they have this condition because it doesn’t produce any symptoms at its early stages. They usually find out when the condition has reached an advanced state. 

Glaucoma can affect only one eye at a time or cause more damage to one eye than in the other. However, in general, the disease damages both eyes at once. While doctors have known this illness to appear in people with elevated eye pressure, recent studies suggest that it can also occur in individuals with normal eye pressure levels.

What Causes Glaucoma?

Any condition that prevents the eye from draining fluid or impairs the nerves can cause glaucoma. The following factors contribute to the disease:

  • Trauma – Physical damage to your eyes, even if it doesn’t blind you directly, can increase your chance of developing glaucoma later on.
  • Age – You need to be extra careful about your eyes once you reach your 40s. At this age, the risks of contracting glaucoma increase significantly. This is why medical authorities recommend regular eye exams after your fortieth birthday. Nevertheless, glaucoma can develop even as early as infancy, so younger individuals should also get their eyes checked periodically.
  • Diabetes – Mounting evidence shows a strong correlation between glaucoma and diabetes mellitus. Although scientists do not know why this link exists, diabetes is known to impair nerves throughout the body, and this may include the optic nerve. The condition may also block the body from properly maintaining the flow of blood out of the eye.
  • Medications – Steroid medications, such as Prednisone Intensol, can raise eye pressure, which may contribute to glaucoma. This is true whether the drugs are in the form of pills, injections, creams, or inhalers.
  • Genetics – If you have a family history of glaucoma, especially siblings or parents, watch out because you have a higher risk of developing the condition. 
  • Surgery Gone Wrong – Cornea transplants, cataract surgery, and other eye operations may increase the risk of glaucoma if not performed properly.
  • Infection – Other eye problems can damage your optic nerve and lead to glaucoma. If you get something in your eye, especially dangerous household chemicals, clean it with cool water or saline solution to prevent infection. Get advice from your local help center or go to a hospital to get checked. 
  • Race – Certain racial and ethnic groups experience glaucoma at a higher rate than others. If you are Hispanic/Latino, Scandinavian, Japanese, sub-Saharan African, Irish, Russian, or Inuit ancestry, be especially wary of vision concerns.

Is Glaucoma Reversible?

Unfortunately, doctors cannot reverse glaucoma. However, there are available methods that will prevent the disease from causing further damage. This is why it is important to catch it as early as possible. The sooner you get treated, the better your long-term vision will be. Visit an eye doctor at least once every two years, and look out for the following symptoms:

  • Your vision grows narrow
  • Your eyes appear hazy or red
  • You get headaches and feel pain in your eyes
  • You feel nauseous and/or frequently vomit
  • Halos start to appear around light fixtures

There are various treatments available for glaucoma. Your treatment will depend on the nature and severity of your condition. Doctors may recommend any of the following solutions individually or in combination with each other:

Oral Medicine – Drugs that reduce pressure in the eyes like carbonic anhydrase inhibitors. Doctors sometimes prescribe these as a temporary measure.

Eye Drops – You can help your eyes reduce its fluid production by regularly applying eye drops. This will lower excessive fluid buildup. They also force more fluid to drain out of your eye. Eye drops may cause itching, blurred vision, and redness. Patients who experience these side-effects may think that their condition is getting worse even as it improves. 

Micro-surgery – Implants are installed in the eye to allow fluid to flow out more reliably. Doctors can also extract tissue from the trabecular meshwork to open it up and allow it to drain fluid more effectively.

Laser Surgery – Patients with narrow-angle glaucoma can use laser surgery to drain fluid buildup in their eye This method uses the laser to make a hole in the iris, causing the fluid to flow out. For patients with wide-angle glaucoma, the doctor will use the laser to open up the eye’s trabecular meshwork. 

Glaucoma may be sudden and severe or develop slowly over the years. If any of the risk factors above apply to you, be sure to get period eye exams. If not, it still pays to ensure that your eyes are healthy with regular checkups. Watch out for any changes in your vision. It’s important that you know the symptoms associated with the disease so you can catch it early if you have it. While a good diet and a healthy living style may provide some protection, they do not guarantee against glaucoma.

Do you have Glaucoma? Consult our Arizona Retinal Specialists for any vision-related problems you may have – call us 623-474-3937

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